At this Saturday’s Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, Damon Clarke Owens will lead a breakout session with student participants. Owens currently serves as the Executive Director of the Theology of the Body Institute, but has served as the New Jersey Director of the National Organization for Marriage.
The National Organization for Marriage is the leading organization — which truly isn’t saying much — in the fight against same-sex marriage. Although NOM’s prominence and funding have greatly decreased in recent years, it has continued to put forth dangerous and violent rhetoric against queer people. As the Southern Poverty Law Center has noted, these claims have ranged from accusing queer people of trying to attack people of faith (as if these groups are mutually exclusive) to claiming that queer people are more likely to be pedophiles.
As the New Jersey Director of NOM, Owens is directly responsible for this legacy and for furthering violence against queer people. Although there are incredibly valid class/race/feminist critiques of marriage as a rights-giving institution, it is clear from Owens’ writing and his Twitter (see below) that he isn’t using critical theory to deconstruct marriage as an oppressive system. Instead, he is motivated by a deep distrust — if not hatred — of queer-identified people.
Owens’ narrow-minded ideology has had violent consequences for queer people. By leading the fight against marriage equality in New Jersey, Owens sought to deny queer people access to healthcare, equal treatment in immigration proceedings, and access to an equitable tax system. These all constitute acts of violence against queer people that Owens should be held accountable for.
Damon Clarke Owens is a man who puts forward a worldview that is prejudiced and violent. This doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be able to espouse his views: Owens has every right to be a prejudiced, narrow-minded person in whatever forum in which he’s invited to participate.
However, I wonder why Owens would be invited to speak at a university-endorsed conference. How can Georgetown simultaneously justify this speaker while continuing to claim to be progressive on LGBTQ issues? What does the University have to say to queer students whose basic dignity has been challenged by this speaker? How can we as a community claim to “Care for the Whole Person” or, even more broadly, respect “Life” while endorsing speakers who spit on the dignity and physical, emotional, mental, social, and financial wellbeing of members of our Georgetown family?
I truly hope that Georgetown respects its students more than Damon Clarke Owens does. I hope that the University is ignorant of Owens’ views. If this is the case, I’d like to take a moment to make the University aware of the rhetoric they are endorsing: Hey Georgetown, your conference is homophobic!
Selected Tweets from Damon Clarke Owens
Vincent DeLaurentis (SFS’17) is the Vice President of H*yas for Choice and a dedicated male feminist.